by carl wilson

Look at this Showroom, Full of Fabulous Prizes
(Vote Feuermusik!)


News today from the glamorous land of Canadian music awards.

First, SOCAN (the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) has announced the shortlist for the second annual Echo Prize, a $5,000 competition for the Canadian song of the past year by an independent artist. (To qualify, the nominees must not be signed with any of the four major labels and/or cannot have sold gold-record numbers, which in Canada means 50,000 copies.) The focus here is on songwriting rather than performance though that distinction's obviously a blurry one. I was one of 10 panelists from across the country that nominated three songs each, and then ranked our top 5 each among the 30 nominees - a painstaking process, as that amounted to several hours of music, much of it (refreshingly!) unfamiliar, to audition and re-audition.

But the results are ace - an unpredictable and varied shortlist compared to the Polaris album prize, as I discussed when those nominees were announced. And the Echo process also has a bit more built-in fun - the final winner will be determined by votes from you, the people. Or at least the Internet people, as the poll runs through the SOCAN website. Their listen-and-vote page isn't in operation yet is up now, and you can also follow the links to the artists' MySpaces below to hear most of the contending songs. For your consideration:

Pedal Pusher, performed by Abdominal
Devastation, performed by The Besnard Lakes
Dopplespiel, performed by Feuermusik
Scarecrow, performed by Nathan
Graveyard, performed by Chad VanGaalen

Among this group of, respectively, hip-hop, indie-rock, avant-jazz, country-rock and folk-rock tunes, the only weak link for me is The Besnard Lakes, whose special appeal eludes me, but they don't require my approval, what with the international-press buzz and a Polaris nod (VanGaalen is the other double nominee here). But particularly cozy to my cardiac is Toronto sax-and-buckets, ecstatic-jazz duo Feuermusik, one of my nominations in the initial round, whose album Goodbye Lucille I've been starry-eyedly plugging for a full year. I suspect that for many judges it was their first time hearing F'musik, since it's an independent release with scant national distribution - a real testament to how captivating their Coltrane-on-a-skateboard sound is. Next on my list would be Abdominal's Pedal Pusher, a unique entry in the rap canon - an unapologetic ode to non-motorized two-wheeled transportation from the not-so-mean streets of Toronto.

(Incidentally, my two initial picks that didn't make the final cut were Frog Eyes' epic Bushels from Tears of the Valedictorian (see my Pitchfork review) and Eric Chenaux's However Wildly We Dream from Dull Lights (see my Globe and Mail article).

Congrats to all, but again, please vote Feuermusik.

Meanwhile, a minor announcement as well from the Polaris camp: The performers at the Sept. 24 gala at the Phoenix in Toronto will include these five nominees: Julie Doiron
"who will reunite with members of Eric's Trip for this performance"), Miracle Fortress, Patrick Watson, the Joel Plaskett Emergency, and Chad VanGaalen. (So no Arcade Fire or Feist? Gosh, who'd have guessed. I'm crushed that my beloved Junior Boys won't be performing, though. And the other no-shows are the Dears and Besnard Lakes.) The ceremony's to be hosted by CBC Radio 3's Grant Lawrence, whose party-pumping (and ass-kicking) talents were well in evidence when we were together on last year's final jury. None of which matters much to most of you, as the event is invite-only, but speaking of the jury, here is juicier grist for speculation and oddsmaking - this year's distinguished and honourable roster of deciders:

Stuart Berman, Eye Weekly (Toronto)
Laurie Brown, CBC Radio 2 (Toronto)
Ben Conoley, here magazine (Fredericton)
Mike Doherty, National Post (Toronto)
Stephanie Domet, CBC Radio 1 (Halifax)
T'Cha Dunlevy, Gazette (Montreal)
Robert Everett-Green, Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Cam Lindsay, Exclaim! (Toronto)
Stephane Martel, VOIR (Montreal)
Sandra Sperounes, Edmonton Journal (Edmonton)
John Sekerka, XPress (Ottawa)

PS: Vote Feuermusik.

General | Posted by zoilus on Thursday, August 30 at 4:21 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (6)



I wasn't so concerned with no west coast panelists (well, until Liisa [from Polaris itself?!!] tried to lump Edmonton into the west coast...) but more interested in the correlation between the lack of west coast representation in the prize and the jury. I don't necessarily think any BC bands are deserving nor do I really have my finger on the pulse of the coast writer/critic scene, but the connection between participation and representation is always strong on my mind.

Does focus on a scene thing increase its intensity? Or more importantly, does neglect destroy one? I live in San Diego which suffers greatly from the success of Portland and more currently LA. If, for some reason, people felt that they lived somewhere productive and fertile, would they stay put and become productive themselves? It's a pretty absurd thought experiment, but institutions like the CBC and Polaris have the chance to test it out.

Posted by david b on September 8, 2007 5:36 PM



You're right Carl, there are many factors that go into determining who is invited to be on the Polaris Grand Jury each year. We are committed to diversity of regions, gender and type of media, as well as years on the beat. In addition, there are considerations to ensure that the Jury is not weighted in advance in favour of any one shortlisted album. And always in our minds, seeking jurists who are passionate about Polaris and willing to dedicate themselves to the difficult task at hand.

Personally, I'm not surprised to see someone point out there's nobody from Vancouver on the Grand Jury -- my Chart magazine days taught me quite well about how the West Coasters keep score of these things -- but let me remind you that last year there was no one from the East Coast. It's a big country. Rest assured, we change the Grand Jury each year. It's quite possible Polaris 08 will have campus radio programmers from Sudbury and Kelowna on the Grand Jury. So stay tuned -- and keep the discussions and suggestions flowing.

Posted by Liisa on September 8, 2007 2:29 PM



Though I agree that Edmonton isn't on the West Coast, David, I don't know if there *always* must be a jurist from Vancouver on the final panel. (Which is what in practice that would mean.)

Canadians do go overboard complaining about regional representation. However, it's surprising there is only one jurist from anywhere west of Toronto, considering that there are five from points east of here. And though it's probably true that half the critics in the country live here, five from Toronto does seem like a lot.

Still, one might think about other standards: For example, aside from the one Exclaim writer, everyone on the panel works either for a newspaper, an alt-weekly or the CBC. It'd be nice to see some campus-community radio types, bloggers, 'zine critics or any other kind of variety. (Chart and Exclaim aside, we don't really have a music-magazine industry in this country, unfortunately.) On the other hand, this year's panel, I think, is more widely varied in tastes than last year's - we'll see how that affects the outcome.

One could go on - I'm glad to see there's still decent female representation on the jury this year, for instance - but my point is just that composing the panel involves more considerations than just geography (god forbid I mention the criterion of whether the judges are good music critics, right?) and they're never going to satisfy everyone.

Posted by zoilus on September 7, 2007 12:16 PM




Posted by david b on September 4, 2007 12:07 PM



Re: West Coast panelists.
Sandra Sperounes is from Edmonton.

Posted by Liisa on September 4, 2007 11:35 AM



i mean, since no west coast bands made the cut, why bother putting any west coasters on the panel?

might as well build the railyard on burrard inlet.

Posted by david b on August 31, 2007 1:50 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson